Crowds line the streets as the Great North Run returns for 40th race
Thousands of runners and spectators descended on Newcastle city centre as the 40th anniversary of the Great North Run took place on Sunday, September 12.
The iconic half marathon returned to the region after being cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, with changes to race day put in place to limit the spread of Covid-19.
The Great North Run’s finish line is usually in South Shields.
But for the event’s 40th year, the finishers’ village was built on Newcastle’s Town Moor to ensure that the event could be as Covid secure as possible.
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Despite the course change, spirits among runners and spectators were high, with crowds cheering on runners at key landmarks along the route including as they crossed the Tyne Bridge and dashed by Grey’s Monument.
Chris Wetherspoon, who was running for the Foundation of Light, shared his views on the 2021 run.
“It was good, the weather has been perfect for it but the course was tough, especially around Gateshead,” he said.
"It is weird not running to Shields, however running through Newcastle city centre with a Sunderland badge on was a real buzz.
"This year was always going to be difficult with everything that has happened but I think they did well. It is meant to be the whole of the North East, not just Newcastle.”
South Shields Harriers runner Claire O’Callaghan and Fran Dembele also found the new course tougher than in previous years.
Claire said: “It was a bit hilly but nice to see the other runners coming in the other direction as the course loops round, it was probably the only nice thing about the route.”
Fran added: “It was nowhere near as good, I hope it is back to normal next year. There was nowhere near the amount of normal crowds until you were in the city centre.
"Even on the way in, the Metros were all really quiet.”
Great North Run founder Sir Brendan Foster has promised that the event will return to South Shields “as soon as possible” – but this year’s route change has hit businesses in South Tyneside, with some sharing the impact it has had ahead of race day.
The Marsden Inn, on South Shields’ Marsden Lane, saw accommodation bookings fall through as the race route was changed.
Speaking at the finish line, first-time participant Kieran Cramman said: “I’m a bit gutted that it didn’t finish in Shields but I can understand why, given there is only one Metro station and everyone would be stuck in one place.
“Hopefully it will return next year so businesses can try and recover some of the money that they’ve lost as usually the whole place is rammed.”
South Shields Harriers Kevin Craig and Andrew Dorrian would also like to see the finish line return to their town in 2022.
Kevin said: “It was good but not the same, the course was a bit tougher and deceitfully hilly, especially along the Central Motorway.
"I do hope that it goes back to Shields, however the atmosphere through Newcastle city centre was just a different feeling.”
Andrew added: “Hopefully it will go back to Shields as it is tradition for the Great North Run.”